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Educating and activating health professionals to work toward health equity.

Policy Priorities

Racism is a Public Health Crisis

Statement of the Issue:

  • According to Dr. Camara P. Jones and the American Public Health Association, “racism is defined as a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call ’race’), that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.”

  • As medical professionals, we see firsthand the effects of racism that have led to conditions in which Black, Indigenous and other people of color do not have the same opportunity as white people in Minnesota to live healthy lives. We acknowledge that the health care system we are a part of has been complicit in upholding white supremacy and reproducing oppression. One cannot both endorse our current health care system and state that Black Lives Matter. We must do more.

Where MN has been

  • Minnesota is, on average, one of healthiest states in the nation--yet, averages fail to tell the whole story. For decades, Minnesota has had some of the WORST racial health disparities in the United States.

  • Compared to white populations, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in Minnesota experience shorter life spans and higher incidences of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases

  • Minnesota has one of the lowest overall infant mortality rates in the country for white Minnesotans (4.1/1,000), yet a massive disparity persists for Black (9.3/1,000) and American Indian (10.3/1,000) Minnesotans

  • Other statistics are available from the MN House of Representatives Select Committee on Racial Justice’s December 2020 report


Where MN needs to go:

  • MDHEQ has led coalition efforts with other Minnesota physician organizations in calling for state declarations of racism as a public health crisis

    • (July 1, 2022) MDHEQ submitted a letter to Minnesota's government and healthcare leaders to call for tangible steps toward equity, antiracism, and justice to realize meaningful change.

    • (June 30, 2020) Press Release: “Minnesota Doctors for Health Equity Leads Coalition of 9 Minnesota Physician Organizations Calling on State Leaders to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis”

      • (June 30, 2020) MDHEQ-led coalition penned a letter to state and county governmental leaders

      • (July 19, 2020) MDHEQ testimony in support of HR1: a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis

  • MDHEQ supports the context and recommendations provided by the Minnesota House Select Committee on Racial Justice’s Report to the Legislature.

  • Legislative actionsMDHEQ will advocate for legislative and governmental actions to:

    • Incorporate racial equity assessments into all decision- and policy-making activities

    • Support the elimination of policies in health care systems that reduce access to care, such as refusing to accept patients insured through Medicaid or policies that delay care or appointments for low-income or uninsured patients

    • Hold health care financing and delivery systems accountable for addressing inequities baked into risk prediction tools and business practices

  • MDHEQ will help educate Minnesota’s physicians and medical students by:

  • MDHEQ will partner with the community by:

    • Engage in dialogue with Black, Indigenous and other communities of color and share power and resources with communities to accomplish co-created goals

    • Engage members on how to develop and incorporate human-centered design

    • Push MN health care employers to support the recruitment of and employment of more physicians and health care providers of color and to develop structures that help advance them to positions of leadership

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Embedding Health Equity in Minnesota’s COVID-19 Response & Recovery

Statement of the issue: 


Where MN has been:

  • Minnesota’s BIPOC communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19

    • Latinx, Black, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Minnesotans have tested positive at three, two, and three times the rate of white Minnesotans, respectively

    • American Indian, Black, and Latinx Minnesotans are hospitalized at nearly four times the rate of white Minnesotans

    • 10% of all American Indian Minnesotans who test positive for COVID-19 are hospitalized

    • Asian Minnesotans are hospitalized at almost three times the rate of white Minnesotans

    • Asian, Black, American Indian, and Latinx Minnesotans are 2.5, 3, 4, and 5 times more likely to die than white Minnesotans (respectively) from COVID-19

  • The spillover impacts of COVID-19 also disproportionately impact BIPOC communities

    • As of December, nearly 1 in 10 Black workers were applying for continued unemployment insurance claims (compared with 4% of white workers)

    • Throughout the pandemic, over 60% of Black workers and over 50% of American Indian workers have filed for unemployment benefits

    • Minnesota’s vaccination tracking dashboard currently does not provide data by race, ethnicity, language, nor does it publicly report any metrics for equity in resource allocation.  

  • Access to paid leave and the ability to take paid leave are not available equally across populations of different income levels or race/ethnicity.

Where MN needs to go: 

  • Minnesota has the opportunity to lead with health and racial equity in our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

  • MDHEQ has led coalitional efforts with other Minnesota organizations calling for prioritizing equity in the COVID-19 response, including:

    • (Feb 8, 2021) Letter to state leaders on prioritizing equity in Minnesota’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy

    • (Sept 10, 2020) Letter to Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov Flanagan on Covid-19 and homelessness

    • (Sept 9, 2020) MDHEQ member Dr. Dimitri Drekonja testified to the House Select Committee on Minnesota’s Pandemic Response

    • (August 2020) Ms. Leppke shared talking points at a press event to get Congress back to work, increase Medicaid funding, and provide housing assistance to states

    • (July, 2020) Comments and meeting with DHS Commissioner Harpstead on the Blue Ribbon Commission Report

    • (May 30, 2020) Dr. Chomilo cited in Star Tribune article on how people of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19

    • (April 24, 2020) Star Tribune article “Health care providers call for rescue of our homeless population

  • MDHEQ will advocate for legislative and governmental actions to:

    • Promote permanent extensions of pay parity for telemedicine care, including parity for telephone and video visits alike

    • Publicly disseminate vaccine distribution and allocation data, including data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and other equity metrics

    • Increase access to substance use disorder treatment, including medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD)

    • Extend paid parent/family medical leave

    • Extend insurance enrollment periods

    • Extend paid sick leave, including paid leave for individuals to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and have coverage in the event of side effects

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Housing is Health 

Statement of the Issue:

  • At every stage of life, where we live is the foundation for our health, education, safety, and economic well-being. MDHEQ is committed to promoting equitable access to safe, secure and affordable housing through public education, legislative and institutional advocacy, and community partnerships.


Where MN has been: 

Where MN needs to go:

  • (Sept 14, 2020) Joint letter to Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov Flanagan on unsheltered homelessness during COVID-19, in partnership with the MMA, MAFP, MNAAP
  • MDHEQ will continue to foster a deeper understanding of structural racism’s impact on housing, health, and homelessness through resources like Mapping Prejudice

  • MDHEQ will develop and share resources for clinics and acute care settings across Minnesota to identify and support people experiencing homelessness. 

  • MDHEQ will advocate for legislative actions and funding priorities which provide evidence-based and equitable support for people experiencing homelessness in our state.

  • MDHEQ will partner with the community by:

    • Continuing to build a coalition of healthcare organizations invested in housing equity.

    • Cultivating partnerships with existing housing coalitions.

    • Supporting healthcare professionals promoting housing equity by advancing policies within their healthcare systems.

    • Community partnerships:

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Rural Health Equity 

Statement of the Issue: 

  • Rural Minnesotans face significant health disparities relative to urban communities, due to geographic barriers to care, increased poverty, increased exposure to high risk work environments (agriculture, food processing, mining, etc), higher rates of chronic disease, suicide and opioid prescribing, unmet needs for mental health and substance use disorders, and higher costs of care.

MDHEQ's Priority Issues:

  • Educating members and highlighting organizations advocating for increased telehealth coverage and improved broadband infrastructure.

  • Addressing workforce shortage, including EMS providers, nurses, therapy staff, behavioral health providers, advanced practice providers and physicians

  • Supporting rural training and pipeline programs

  • Advocating for an improved health safety net

  • Addressing the unique needs and compounded health disparities of minority populations in rural areas due to structural inequities

  • Reducing barriers to care for agricultural/food processing workers, including advocating for improved paid family/medical leave

  • Promoting reproductive justice and increasing access to full spectrum reproductive services currently limited by the closure of obstetric units and the absence of family planning and abortion clinics

  • Highlighting environmental health issues in agricultural, forestry and mining communities

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Educating and activating health professionals to work toward health equity


Health Professionals will use their voice, knowledge, and influence to eliminate the inequities that exist in health and healthcare, while working effectively with their patients, health systems, communities, and decision makers to address health equity wherever they live, work, learn, and play.

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